Blackboard Bets on Mobile Future, but No iPad App Yet

Blackboard Inc. announced today that it would expand the number of services it offers via smartphones this summer. But though the company originally intended to unveil an application for Apple’s new iPad when the device hits store shelves, in April, an unexpected delay has unplugged that plan.

The course-management-software provider already offers applications for iPhones and Blackberry phones but does not allow students to check grades, add comments to discussion boards, or use other features of its Learn product from those applications. Company officials say the forthcoming applications will let students and professors access just about all of the services of its course-management system from mobile devices.

To make full use of the new system, to be called Blackboard Mobile Learn, colleges will have to pay a fee (based on the size of the institution and number of students). The company has cut a deal with Sprint to allow colleges to offer the service free of charge to students and professors who use phones on Sprint’s network.

The step represents the fruits of Blackboard’s purchase last year of Terriblyclever Design LLC, which had built iPhone applications for a handful of colleges and high schools.

Kayvon Beykpour, vice president of Blackboard Mobile, said in an interview on Friday that his team is desiging applications that will make use of mobile devices linking to the Blackboard learning system. Applications for iPhones, Blackberries, and phones that run Google’s Android operating system will be released in June, he said. An iPad application would be ready by the first week of April, he said, but this weekend a spokesman said that the release date had been pushed back to an undetermined date.

As an article in The New York Times noted yesterday, companies are rushing to push out iPad applications to ride the wave of hype about the new gadget.

After this round of applications is done, Mr. Beykpour said, his team will look to develop features designed with cellphones in mind. He expects the company eventually to release mobile applications for its other products as well, in addition to the course-management system.

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